Stem cells refer to unspecialized cells that are located in embryos and different tissues of adults. These cells self-renew by dividing mitotically and can differentiate to a vast variety of cells in environments that are appropriate for precise conditions. They are cell reservoirs for reparation of damaged physique tissues. According to recent studies, stem cells such as mesenchymal stem cells have characteristics, which are immune-modulatory. This property has made many researchers conduct many trials with transplantation of mesenchymal stem cells in treating illnesses that arise from immunological abuses. The cells can repair contamination caused injuries of distinct body organs since they have a ability of specific homing.
Stem cells transplantation has come out as a potential way to treat many diseases since it has multi-lineage differentiation and self-renewal capabilities. Stem cell therapy of various diseases involves delivering stem cells to infected site locally. These cells hold the therapeutic capacity to treat many infectious and non-infectious diseases because it can differentiate into different stages. Mesenchymal stem cells are the primary cell type being used because of their prolonged existence and the fact that they have less ethical issues (Rai, Bhattacharya, & Das, 2012).
Mesenchymal stem cells are capable of manipulating host immune response; therefore they are frequently used to prevent or treat many diseases that arise from immune system irregularities. The infused stem cells can also differentiate into a particular type of cell once it has reached the site in response to local signals. Despite the fact that this notion has not been demonstrated adequately, most reports state that they can be used to treat lung fibrosis, cardiovascular, orthopedic, and neural diseases (Rai, Bhattacharya, & Das, 2012).
Researchers have found out that neural stem cell transplantation in adult rats causes improvement in spinal cord injuries. These approaches can be extended to the treatment of stroke conditions as well as other neurodegenerative diseases. Therapeutic use of mesenchymal stem cells has been successful in treating various diseases of the liver as well as inherited metabolic disorders. These cells produce cytokines that can mitigate inflammatory injuries on the liver and prevent liver cells from undergoing apoptosis. They also help hepatocytes to regain their function and proliferation (Rai, Bhattacharya, & Das, 2012).
Mesenchymal stem cells can be used to prevent auto-immune diseases like arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease by suppressing immune responses of the body that occurs when it recognizes its component as non-self. Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis result from intestinal inflammation due to immune responses of the body against the intestinal tissues. Arthritis, particularly rheumatoid arthritis develops due to inflammation and damage of tissues lining joints as a result of immune responses of the body towards the joints (Siegmund & Zeitz, 2012).
Stem cells have immune-suppressive effects that are helpful in the prevention and treatment of Graft Versus Host Diseases (GVHD), which develop when the immune system of a host rejects a transplanted organ or part of the body as non-self. These cells act by suppressing the immune response of the host resulting in prolonged skin graft survival (Rai, Bhattacharya, & Das, 2012).
Stem cells therapy can also be used to prevent or treat sepsis, a deadly condition that arises from spreading of an infection to various parts the body and the response of the body to it. Reports made by different scientists show that transplanting mesenchymal stem cells to a patient can successfully treat sepsis (Rai, Bhattacharya, & Das, 2012).
These cells also useful in the treatment of malaria. This disease is commonly characterized by the invasion of erythrocytes by Plasmodium, resulting in an extreme agitation of hematopoiesis. When the red blood cells are severely destroyed, anemia develops thereby exerting pressure on the bone marrows to produce more myeloid cells. In this regard, stem cells can be modified to produce erythrocytes that have modified hemoglobin to protect a patient from malaria (Rai, Bhattacharya, & Das, 2012).
Stem cells can also be used in the treatment of ischemic diseases. These are a group of diseases such as diabetic foot, ischemic cerebrovascular disease, and ischemic cardiomyopathy (ICM) and are becoming a primary cause of mortality and morbidity globally. Mesenchymal stem cells have been very useful in the treatment a broad range of ischemic diseases in clinical trials and animal models. Therefore, transplantation of stem cells to patients would constitute the perfect option for treatment of patients suffering from coronary diseases (Li, et al., 2016).
Despite the fact that stem cells therapy can be used to treat diseases that otherwise seem untreatable, it has its side effects, for instance, a patient can be subjected to the risk of developing. Their anti-proliferative effects are related to anti-apoptotic effect as well. That may result in drug resistance, tumor progression, and metastasis. Many concerns are being discussed by researchers such as immunogenicity of stem cells. Their ability to suppress immune system is another issue of concern since many scientists believe that this ability poses a severe threat of other kinds of infections to patients. Studies conducted using mouse specimen of tuberculosis show role of mesenchymal stem cells in the development of this disease. Therefore, more research needs to be done to come up with ways of minimizing the side effects of using stem cells to treat various diseases.
Li, S., Wang, X., Li, J., Zhang, J., Zhang, F., Hu, J., . . . Li, Q. (2016). Advances in the Treatment of Ischemic Diseases by Mesenchymal Stem Cells . Stem Cells International, 1-11.
Rai, R. C., Bhattacharya, D., & Das, G. (2012). Stem Cells in Infectious Diseases. New Delhi: Immunology Group, International Centre for or Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology.
Siegmund, B., & Zeitz, M. (2012). Innate and adaptiveimmunity in inflammatory bowel disease. World J Gastroenterol, 17(27), 3178-3183.